Category Archives: Italian Navy

Italian Navy AV-8B+ Harrier Jet Deploys Aboard Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Iwo Jima

An Italian Navy “Jump Jet” landed aboard the Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Iwo Jima (LHD 7) in the Med Sea.

On Jul. 18, 2018, an AV-8B+ Harrier II belonging to the I GRUPAER (Gruppo Aerei Imbarcati) of the Marina Militare (Italian Navy), from Grottaglie, landed aboard USS Iwo Jima as the amphibious assault ship and its embarked 26th MEU (Marine Expeditionary Unit) transited through the Mediterranean Sea on their way back home from their deployment “in support of maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 6th Fleet.”

The Italian Navy Harrier will remain with the Iwo Jima Amphibious Ready Group until it arrives in the U.S., then, the “Jump Jet” will head to MCAS (Marine Corps Air Station) Cherry Point, NC, for a scheduled PMI (Preventative Maintenance Inspection) that will take up to six months.

“Italy and America have an agreement where we will bring over our planes for maintenance,” said Italian pilot, Lt. Domenico Iovino, in a public statement released by the U.S. DoD. “After the maintenance is performed, we will come back to the U.S. and take the plane back to Italy.”

MEDITERRANEAN SEA (July 18, 2018) An Italian AV-8B Harrier lands aboard the Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Iwo Jima (LHD 7), in the Mediterranean Sea, July 18, 2018. The Harrier and its crew will return to the United States for scheduled maintenance at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, North Carolina. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Jon Sosner/ Released)

This is not the first time the Italian Harriers operate from a U.S. unit: since many deployments pass through the Med Sea, the Italian Navy pilots have the opportunity to operate from the flight deck of Wasp-class amphibious assault ships every now and then.

“We have done this several times in the last few years,” said Italian Lt. Cosimo Manica, also a Harrier pilot. “We have taken approximately 10 planes from Italy to the United States for PMI, which can only be done in America.” Indeed, the deployment of Italian AV-8Bs has already happened with USS Bataan in 2017 and 2014 and USS Kearsarge in 2015.

Operating from a U.S. ship is not too different from operating aboard an Italian aircraft carrier, such as the ITS Cavour or Garibaldi. Whilst landing procedures are almost identical, what is probably different is the amount of traffic the units manage both in the air and on the apron, making the opportunity to operate on a U.S. amphibious assault ship relatively “low-stress” but also formative.

“The program that we go through to become a Harrier pilot is taught the exact same way as it is to Americans, and the planes are the same, so there is not much difference when landing on the American ships,” Manica said in the public release. “Our landing procedures are almost exactly the same as well, so there are no problems when we come in to land on U.S. Navy ships.”

MEDITERRANEAN SEA (July 18, 2018) A U.S. Marine assigned to Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 162 completes post flight maintenance on an Italian AV-8B Harrier aboard the Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Iwo Jima (LHD 7), in the Mediterranean Sea, July 18, 2018. The Harrier and its crew will return to the United States for scheduled maintenance at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, North Carolina. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Jon Sosner/ Released)

The Italian Navy operates little more than a dozen Harriers that are planned to be replaced by the F-35B (probably 15, according to most sources). Italy’s first-built F-35B, aircraft BL-1, was delivered to the Italian Ministry of Defense and assigned to the Italian Navy at the Cameri, Italy, Final Assembly & Check-Out (FACO) facility, on Jan. 25, 2018. It completed its transatlantic crossing landing at Naval Air Station Patuxent River in Maryland on Jan. 31. At Pax River, the aircraft, serialled MM7451/4-01 will obtain the Electromagnetic Environmental Effects certification, before moving to MCAS Beaufort, South Carolina home of U.S. Marine Corps F-35B pilot training.

The First F-35B Assembled Outside The U.S. Delivered To The Italian Ministry Of Defense Today

The first Italian-build Short Take-Off/Vertical Landing (STOVL) F-35B Lightning II aircraft was delivered to the Italian Ministry of Defense and assigned to the Italian Navy at the Cameri Final Assembly and Check Out (FACO) facility today.

As planned, the Italian Ministry of Defense was delivered its first F-35B STOVL variant of the Lightning II aircraft at the FACO in Cameri, northwest Italy, on Jan. 25.

The aircraft, that had been spotted flying last week, was assigned to the Marina Militare (Italian Navy) during a ceremony attended by General Claudio Graziano, Chief of Italian Defense General Staff; Admiral Valter Girardelli, Chief of the Italian Navy; Italian Air Force Lt. Gen. Francesco Langella, Director ARMAEREO; Air Commodore Charles Docherty, F-35 Joint Program Office; Fillipo Bagnato, Director of Leonardo Aircraft Division; and Mr. Doug Wilhelm, Lockheed Martin F-35 Program Management Vice President.

Unfortunately, as happened during almost all the milestone events linked to the F-35 in Italy, no media representatives were invited/allowed to attend the ceremony and the few details about the ceremony we are able to report come from an official press release from Lockheed Martin. Indeed, whereas the delivery of the first Israeli or Dutch F-35s got a significant media coverage (with constant updates, live streaming on social media, etc.), the Italian MoD has kept a “low profile” about the F-35 program (in spite of the several firsts scored by the Italian Air Force with the 5th generation aircraft).

As already explained in the past, despite the cuts (from 131 to 90 examples, with the “promise” to consider more cuts if needed…), the program has attracted a significant chunk of Italy’s defense budget: for this reason the F-35 surely the most famous defense program in Italy. And the most controversial. In Italy the F-35 is still a “sensitive” subject: a large part of the public opinion, as well as many Italian lawmakers have always been against it, because they believe that the investment as a Tier II partner and no significant industrial gains couldn’t co-exist with the country’s fragile public finances. However, the Italian Government has been able to save the F-35 and ensure the Italian Air Force its 5th generation aircraft to replace the ageing (and for this reason costly) AMX and Tornado fleets, and the Navy its F-35Bs to replace the AV-8B+ Harrier jump jets.

Anyway, to date, nine F-35As and one F-35B have been delivered from the Cameri FACO, which is the only F-35B production facility outside the United States. Four of those jets are now based at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, for international pilot training and five are at Amendola Air Base, Italy.

The Cameri FACO is also programmed to produce 29 F-35As for the Royal Netherlands Air Force and retains the capacity to deliver to other European partners in the future. The FACO is operated by Leonardo in conjunction with Lockheed Martin with a current workforce of more than 800 skilled personnel engaged in full assembly of the Conventional Take-Off/Landing F-35A and F-35B STOVL aircraft variants and F-35A wing production.

Top image: Italy’s first-built F-35B, aircraft BL-1, was delivered to the Italian Ministry of Defense and assigned to the Italian Navy at the Cameri, Italy, Final Assembly & Check-Out (FACO) facility, Jan. 25. (Ministry of Defense Photo)

Here Is Italy’s First F-35B Lightning II Flying In Full Italian Navy Markings For The First Time Today

The aircraft will be officially delivered to the Marina Militare next week. Today it flew for the first time in full Italian Navy markings.

On Jan. 18, the first Italian F-35B, the first short-take and vertical landing Lightning II aircraft assembled outside the US, designated BL-1, carried out a test flight in STOVL mode at Cameri airfield, home of the Final Assembly and Check Out (FACO) facility, in northwestern Italy, sporting full Italian Navy markings for the very first time.

Aviation photographer and friend Franco Gualdoni was there and took the photographs of the F-35B flying in the early afternoon sun.

The aircraft, serialled MM7451/4-01, will be taken on charge by the Marina Militare with a ceremony scheduled at the FACO on Jan. 25, 2018. After delivery, the aircraft will be transferred to the Naval Air Station Patuxent River in Maryland, to obtain the Electromagnetic Environmental Effects certification, before moving (most probably) to MCAS Beaufort, South Carolina home of U.S. Marine Corps F-35B pilot training.

The aircraft, that had successfully completed its maiden flight on Oct. 24, 2017, sports a livery quite similar to the one of the Italian Navy’s AV-8B+ Harrier II of the Gruppo Aerei Imbarcati: it features the wolf’s head insignia on the tail, the wolf’s paw prints on the rudder, the Italian Navy roundel and the MARINA text.

Italy plans to procure 90 F-35s: 60 F-35As for the Air Force and 30 F-35Bs for both the ItAF and Italian Navy. The Navy’s STOVL aircraft will replace the ageing Harrier jump jets at Grottaglie airbase, in southeastern Italy, and aboard the Cavour aircraft carrier.

The F-35B MM7451 during its test flight in full Marina Militare markings (Credit: Franco Gualdoni)

 

The Italian BR-1150 Atlantic Has Completed Its Last Flight Ending An Impressive 45-year Career

The Italian Air Force bid farewell to the Breguet Atlantic. And Here Are Some Of The Most Significant Moments Of Its 45-year Career.

On Nov. 22, 2017, the Italian Air Force retired its last BR-1150 Atlantic with a final flight from Sigonella to Pratica di Mare.

The aircraft MM40118/41-03, the Atlantic in special color scheme that had been unveiled during a ceremony held at Sigonella on Sept. 21, will now be transported and then exhibited in the ItAF Museum in Vigna di Valle. The first of 18 MPA (Maritime Patrol Aircraft) with ASW (Anti-Submarine Warfare) capabilities Atlantic aircraft, the BR-1150 MM40108 was taken on charge by the Aeronautica Militare at Toulouse, France, on Jun. 27, 1972. On the very same day, after a stopever in Nimes, France, the aircraft landed at Sigonella, for the very fist time at 16.25LT. The retirement has come after 45 years and almost 260,000 flying hours (actually 258K) logged by a fleet made of 18 aircraft.

The first Atlantic, MM400108/41-70, about to land for the first time at Sigonella at the end of its delivery flight on Jun. 27, 1972. (all images: ItAF)

The Atlantic flies in formation with the Grumman S-2F Tracker, the aircraft it replaced, close to the Etna, in 1972.

Throughout its career, the Atlantic flown by mixed Air Force/Navy crew of 13 people in missions lasting up to 12 hours (actually the record of the Italian BR-1150 is 19 hours and 20 minutes!), carried out thousand Maritime Patrol, ASW and ASuW (Anti-Surface Warfare – limited to the reconnaissance and surveillance part since the aircraft was not equipped with ASuW weapons) sorties as well as Maritime SAR (Search And Rescue) operations taking part also in hundreds exercises: from Dawn Patrol back in 1973 to the recent Dynamic Manta, the BR-1150 have played a role in the Display Determination, Dog Fish, Vento Caldo, Daily Double, Mare Aperto, Tridente, Deterrent Force, Passex, Storm Two, Fleetex, Sharp Guard, Destined Glory, Tapoon and many more ones. The aircraft has flown to the North Pole in 1997, landed at all the major European airports, including Iceland, and reached India, Morocco, Canada, Egypt, Lebanon, UAE and the U.S.

The aircraft was flown by a mixed Air Force/Navy crew of 13 people.

A formation of BR-1150 aircraft in 1994.

In 1997, the Italian Atlantic reached the North Pole.

Two units operated the type within the Italian Air Force (each being assigned 9 aircraft): the 41° Stormo (Wing), with its 88° Gruppo (Squadron) at Sigonella, and the 30° Stormo with its 86° Gruppo at Cagliari Elmas. The latter was disbanded on Aug. 1, 2002 with all the Breguet Atlantic aircraft (“P-1150A” in accordance with the current Italian Ministry of Defense Mission Design Series) taken on charge by the 41th Wing.

Although to a far lesser extent than the French Atlantique 2 (ATL2), that have been upgraded to extend their operative life beyond 2030 adding further capabilities, the Italian Atlantic fleet has undertaken a limited operational update between 1987 and 1997, as part of the ALCO (Aggiornamento Limitato Componente Operativa) programme, that has included, among the others and in different times, new INS (Intertial Navigation System), IFF (Identification Friend or Foe) system, along with new Iguane radar and ESM (Electronic Support Measures) sensors to perform electronic reconnaissance/surveillance systems as well as AIS (Automatic Identification System).

Approaching a warship during a sortie from Sigonella in 2009.

An ItAF P-1150A during a maritime surveillance mission in 2010.

The Atlantic will be partially replaced by the P-72, a multirole Maritime Patrol, Electronic Surveillance and C4I (Command, Control, Communications, Computers, and Intelligence) aircraft that shares many sensors and equipments which were developed for the ATR 72ASW developed by Leonardo for the Turkish Navy. However, the Italian P-72A fleet, that will be made of four aircraft, the first of those delivered to the 41° Stormo on Nov. 25, 2016, lacks an ASW (Anti-Sub Warfare) capability and this is the reason why it is considered a “gap filler” until the budget to procure a Long Range MPA with ASW capabilities will become available.

The Atlantic and the P-72 flew alongside during the very last flight of the Atlantic, from Sigonella to Pratica di Mare on Nov. 22, 2017.

Anyway, the P-72A, that has already debuted in real operations conducting intelligence gathering and electronic surveillance missions during the G7 meeting in Taormina, in May 2017, can undertake a variety of roles ranging from maritime patrol for the search and identification of surface vessels, SAR (search and rescue) missions, the prevention of narcotics trafficking, piracy, smuggling, territorial water security and monitoring and intervention in the event of environmental catastrophes. The P-72A is equipped with a communication suite that enables the aircraft to transmit or receive information in real-time to/from command and control centres either on the ground, in the air or at-sea, to ensure coordinated and effective operations. The aircraft is also equipped with a self-protection system. The aircraft is said to be able to fly missions lasting six and a half hours at ranges up to 200 nautical miles from its starting location.

The last Atlantic at Sigonella on Nov. 21, the sunset before its last flight.

The very last take off from Sigonella on Nov. 22, 2017. The end of an era.

The aircrew of the last flight.

 

During 45 years and about 260,000 FH, the Italian Atlantic fleet suffered no losses.

The author wishes to thank 1°M. Carmelo Savoca of the 41° Stormo for providing information about the aircraft as well as the stunning official images you can find in this post.

The Italian Air Force Bids Farewell To The Breguet BR-1150 Atlantic MPA (With A Special Color Aircraft), Welcomes The New Leonardo P-72A

The BR-1150 Atlantic is about to be retired and (partially) replaced by the Leonardo P-72A.

With a ceremony held at Sigonella airbase and attended by the Italian Air Force Chief of Staff, Gen. Enzo Vecciarelli, and Italian Navy Chief of Staff, Adm. Valter Girardelli, the 41° Stormo (Wing) of the ItAF bid farewell to the Breguet BR-1150 (P-1150A in accordance with the Italian Mission Design Series) Atlantic, a Maritime Patrol Aircraft with ASW (Anti-Submarine Warfare) capabilities that is about to be retired after 45 years of service and more than 250,000 flight hours.

BR-1150 MM40115/41-77 and P-72A MM62298/41-03 during the ceremony at Sigonella on Sept. 21, 2017.

The Atlantic, that operates a mixed Air Force/Navy crew of 13 people in missions lasting up to 12 hours (actually the record of the Italian BR-1150 is 19 hours and 20 minutes!), will continue to fly through November, even though its final operational flight is planned for October. Since the beginning of its service, the Italian Atlantic aircraft have carried out Maritime Patrol and ASW missions, Maritime SAR (Search And Rescue) support and have taken part in hundreds exercises: from Dawn Patrol back in 1973 to the recent Dynamic Manta, the BR-1150 have played a role in the Display Determination, Dog Fish, Vento Caldo, Daily Double, Mare Aperto, Tridente, Deterrent Force, Passex, Storm Two, Fleetex, Sharp Guard, Destined Glory, Tapoon and many more ones. The aircraft has flown to the North Pole in 1997, landed at all the major European airports, including Iceland, and reached India, Morocco, Canada, Egypt, Lebanon, UAE and the U.S.

Last year, the aircraft has also supported the very first F-35’s transatlantic flight taking off from Sigonella on Sept. 20, 2016 and landing at Portsmouth, U.S., after 8,000 miles and more than 30 flight hours.

During the ceremony at Sigonella, the 88° Gruppo (Squadron) of the 41° Stormo unveiled the final Atlantic special color (MM40118/41-03).

The final Atlantic special color (MM40118/41-03).

Since Nov. 25, 2016, the 41° Stormo has started transitioning to the new P-72A, a military variant of the ATR 72-600. The Italian Air Force has received the first two of four P-72A MPA ordered back in 2014; the delivery of the remaining two aircraft is planned by the end of the year.

The P-72A can undertake a variety of roles ranging from maritime patrol for the search and identification of surface vessels, SAR (search and rescue) missions, the prevention of narcotics trafficking, piracy, smuggling, territorial water security and monitoring and intervention in the event of environmental catastrophes. The P-72A is equipped with a communication suite that enables the aircraft to transmit or receive information in real-time to/from command and control centres either on the ground, in the air or at-sea, to ensure coordinated and effective operations. The aircraft is also equipped with a self-protection system. The aircraft is said to be able to fly missions lasting six and a half hours at ranges up to 200 nautical miles from its starting location.

Although it is a multirole Maritime Patrol, Electronic Surveillance and C4I (Command, Control, Communications, Computers, and Intelligence) aircraft that shares many sensors and equipments which were developed for the ATR 72ASW developed by Leonardo for the Turkish Navy, the P-72A lacks an ASW (Anti-Sub Warfare) capability: for this reason it is considered a “gap filler” until the budget to procure a Long Range MPA with ASW capabilities will become available.

Meanwhile, the P-72A has already started flying operational sorties, as happened during the G7 meeting in Taormina, in May 2017, when the two brand new MPA of the 41° Stormo were used to perform intelligence gathering and electronic surveillance missions.

One of the two brand new Leonardo P-72A MPA of the 41° Stormo.

All photos: Author